If the New York Giants were playing anybody else in Sunday’s Super Bowl, Will Blackmon would have a whole state cheering him on. With the Patriots on the other side, that won’t be happening, but maybe Rhode Islanders can keep a soft spot in their Patriots’ hearts for their native son.
I think he deserves it.
Blackmon’s story has been well-chronicled this week, but it’s worth celebrating. Even if he is a Giant.
The 2001 graduate of Bishop Hendricken has been Rhode Island’s most well-known football export since his days at Boston College. He’s the most decorated high school football player in Rhode Island history, and he’s carved out a decent niche for himself in the NFL.
That’s reason enough to pull for him – he’s the only Rhode Island native who’s currently active in the NFL. But Blackmon’s journey to this point makes the story even better.
This time last year, he was getting ready to watch the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. His Green Bay Packers.
And Blackmon didn’t know when – or if – he’d play again.
He was selected by the Packers in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He slowly worked his way into their plans, first as a reserve defensive back and then as a kick returner, where he really began to shine. In 2008, Blackmon ranked fourth in the NFC in punt return average and brought back two punts for touchdowns. His combined kick and punt return yards from that year rank him second on the Packers’ all-time list.
Blackmon had found his home.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get to stay.
Four games into the 2009 season, Blackmon tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. In September of 2010, with Blackmon not fully healthy, the Packers cut him loose.
He hooked on quickly with the Giants, but his knee still wasn’t 100 percent. Giants doctors discovered a complication from the initial surgery, and Blackmon had to have another procedure to correct it.
In the meantime, his old team won the Super Bowl.
The complication was the kind of twist – with the Super Bowl as the extra punch to the gut – that might send some players packing.
Blackmon didn’t do that. He rehabbed and he kept looking for a chance. When the Giants needed a cornerback in November, Blackmon got the call.
He’s played in six games, and has handled the bulk of the punt return duties for the Giants. He hasn’t broken a big one or done anything too special, but he’s there. Considering where he’s been the last few years, that’s saying something.
On Sunday, he’ll take the field on the game’s biggest stage, with a chance to win the Super Bowl ring that could have been his last year.
I know you probably won’t be rooting for that to happen, but maybe you could root for a 30-yard Blackmon punt return. If there’s an interception right after it, that wouldn’t be so bad, right?
Maybe not, but whatever happens, it’ll just be good to see Will Blackmon on a Super Bowl field.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.